World of hospitality, cuisine and crafts in Delhi’s Diplomatic Enclave
Words and pix: Ambica Gulati
Despite the untimely light March shower, the gardens by the Lily Pool at The Ashok were ringing with laughter and abuzz with people eating and enjoying the weather. The occasion: Lotus Bazaar organised by the Asian Heritage Foundation and community kitchen, Sanjha Chulha, run by The Ashok.
This first-of-its kind bazaar and community kitchen had artists and craftsperson from the nine SAARC nations—India, Bhutan, Nepal, Bangaldesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Myanmar—showcasing their products. Promoting cross-cultural activities, Asian Heritage Foundation is going to take the exhibition across cities and countries.
The Ashok, not The Ashoka as many keep calling it, emphasised Chief Executive Chef Rajan Loomba has always been the home ground of presidents, prime ministers, diplomats, eminent personalities. But choosing and connecting with the food experts through the different embassies was not an easy task, he elucidated on the menu which had select dishes from Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Afghanistan, India and Sri Lanka. Along with his team members, Senior Sous Chefs Gaurav Malhotra and Sanjay B. Dasari, Chef Loomba had worked on finding some different dishes from the SAARC nations.
What I liked: Kukul Mas Curry (chicken flavored with coconut milk, curry leaves, black pepper and gigi paste) with Kaha Bhaat (yellow rice tempered with mustard seeds and curry leaves) and Pol Roti–coconut flavoured grilled roti, both from Sri Lanka. From Bhutan and Nepal came the momos. We ended the tasting with phirni which Chef Loomba added is eaten in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. But we missed the dishes from Maldives and Myanmar which would probably be there when the exhibition comes next to Delhi.
It was then a move from the outdoors to the indoors, seeing the iconic hotel which has hosted Prince Edward, cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, actor Amitabh Bachchan and more dignitaries.
Ideally located amidst the greenest part of Delhi, The Ashok is one of the oldest five stars in the Capital. Its architecture is reminiscent of the iconic forts and palaces of India. With around 550 rooms, it has nine restaurants, including specialty ones like The Oudh, Frontier.
The hotel has an executive club for the exclusive use of the residents staying in the deluxe suites. These are theme-based suites—named after rivers, states, arts, crafts. The arts of yore live on these rooms. The doors of Ganga had the amazing marble craft of Uttar Pradesh and marble jalis dividing the living room from the dining room. Narmada’s doors were made of silver.
And then there was the Presidential suite which is a mini-penthouse with its own living room, dining room, pantry, two bedrooms and even a study. It costs Rs 1.5 lakh plus taxes while the deluxe suite costs Rs 75,000 plus taxes.
There are two varieties of the normal suites too, with and without tubs, the price for which starts around Rs 13,000 plus taxes.
Standing at the porch, I was struck by how The Ashok is a landmark in the Capital, surviving the many changes. And the journey across cultures continues.